Eat your way to better health

The word antioxidant has been popular in the health world for many years. But what does it mean and how does it help?

An antioxidant is a molecule that fights free radicals in the body. The term antioxidant is derived from the words anti and oxidant. Anti- meaning against and -oxidant which means oxidation so the term means “against oxidation”.  An antioxidant is a molecule that inhibits or prevents oxidation. As oxidation occurs in our bodies, free radicals are generated. A free radical is a compound that can harm you or have an adverse effect on your health if the levels become too high in your body. As a byproduct of many processes throughout our bodies, including something as healthy as exercise, oxidation occurs.

There are both man-made and natural antioxidants. Supplements are man-made antioxidants. Research has shown that man-made antioxidants do not measure up to the natural antioxidants found in our foods. In other words, manmade antioxidants do not have the same benefits as natural antioxidants. Manmade antioxidants, such as supplements, do not prevent disease. In fact, they may make diseases like prostate cancer more likely to occur. As for the benefits of natural antioxidants, they include slowing down aging, clearing up breakouts, improving vision and reducing cancer risk. 

Vitamins C and E, selenium, and carotenoids (beta carotene, lycopene, lutein, and zeaxanthin) are antioxidant compounds. A few easy ways to consume more antioxidants as part of your diet include : 

  • Adding more fruits and vegetables to your diet 
  • Whenever possible, eat organic fruits and vegetables, because they contain more antioxidants than those that are produced commercially.  When possible, it is encouraged to grow what you can, especially if you have extra space or can grow plants in containers.
  • Eat fresh fruits and vegetables.  Fresh fruits and vegetables are the healthiest because they contain less sugar, salt, and preservatives than canned foods. 
  • Eat colorful foods. Various types of antioxidants are found in colorful foods.  Yellow fruits, like yellow peaches or yellow nectarines, boost immunity. You can decrease inflammation by eating purple and red foods, such as pomegranates, plums and berries.
  • Eat raw or lightly steamed veggies. Cooking destroys the beneficial qualities of the food. You don’t want to lose all the benefits because you just boiled away all the good nutrients and antioxidants. To avoid overcooking or changing the pH, cook under 115oF.

Antioxidant-rich foods you can add to or increase in your meals include turmeric, cocoa powder, garlic, blueberries, avocados, pecans, and hazelnuts. Here’s a quick tip. Turmeric is both antioxidant and anti-inflammatory, so it has double benefits.  

Hopefully this has helped shed some light on the term antioxidant rich foods. Armed with this information, hopefully you can add more of these foods daily and reap major benefits.

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